Fears linger after trial Despite conviction of teen's rapist, many worry about security

Women 'aren't safe anywhere'

Case has changed residents' visions of suburb as haven

February 04, 1997|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

The conviction of a man who raped a Columbia teen-ager has brought a sense of relief to many area residents, but the crime's impact still resonates.

Assistant State's Attorney Janine L. Rice said the Columbia honors student -- who was raped March 20 behind the Howard County Central Library in Columbia -- seemed relieved when she heard the verdict after 3 1/2 hours of deliberation Saturday.

"It just appeared to be a heavy weight lifted from her shoulders," Rice said yesterday of the 16-year-old girl.

A jury in Westminster convicted Timothy Bryan Chase, 29, on 15 charges, including first- and second-degree rape, first-degree sex offense, kidnapping, robbery and perverted practices for raping and robbing the then-15-year-old girl while her younger sister lay next to her. He is to be sentenced April 10.

While many Howard County parents and residents interviewed yesterday expressed feelings of relief, they said the shocking incident will be embedded in their minds -- forever changing their image of the sedate suburb.

"It's a major concern because if it happened once there's nothing to stop it from happening again," said Eithne Porteous, a Jessup resident, as she left the central library yesterday with her twin 15-year-old daughters.

Also outside the library, Jenny Frank, 16, an 11th-grader at Wilde Lake High School, said that since the rape, her mother has been more vigilant about her daughter's whereabouts.

"It just makes her worried about everywhere I go. The library is supposed to be a nice place," Frank said. "She gets really freaked out now."

Yesterday, Norma L. Hill, the library director, said knowing that justice had been served was important to the library as well as the community.

"We hope that the victim, the children and their family are now able to heal the wounds of this heinous crime," Hill said.

After the rape, Howard police conducted a security survey of the library -- 10 months after the rape -- but library officials refuse to disclose the police findings, saying it might endanger their patrons and employees. They also will not say if they have implemented new procedures.

Yesterday, a sign posted on the front of the library door read: "Parents It's Time To Know. Your sons and daughters should never be left unattended. Bring a friend if necessary. Know that we care and that your child is important to us. Thank you for caring too."

Librarians could not say exactly when the sign had gone up, but they said it had been posted for several months. Handouts and signs with a similar message also were inside the library.

Library officials have said that they have a policy regarding children who stay late. The policy calls for county police to be contacted if children of middle school age or younger are at one of the branches 15 minutes after closing.

That policy, established in the 1980s, apparently was in effect at the time of the rape. Library workers did not call police when the high school girl and her younger sister were waiting outside the library for their mother.

That is where Chase found them, before abducting the girls a few minutes after the library closed at 9 p.m.

The two were waiting for their mother -- who was coming from the nearby Mall in Columbia -- when Chase approached, forced the girls into woods behind the building and raped the older girl while her sister lay just feet away, the teen testified.

Chase -- who has two previous armed robbery convictions -- will be subject to Maryland's statute calling for criminals found guilty of three violent crimes to be sentenced to at least 25 years without parole. Two of the charges against him carry maximum penalties of life in prison.

Several residents expressed concern for the victim.

"He's probably killed part of her. How do you get that back?" asked Susan Flanagan of Catonsville, as she sat with her young daughter at The Mall in Columbia. Flanagan said news of the rape had spread outside the county line: "Most of the talk was, it seems like [women] really aren't safe anywhere."

Rice, the prosecutor, said the victim would be pleased to know that she is in the thoughts of residents.

"I'm sure she would be happy to know that members of the community are concerned for her and support her," Rice said.

For Marla Moore, a mother of twin girls, said she hopes the incident will wake people up to the reality that Columbia is not immune to danger.

Moore, 28, of Long Reach, who was also at the mall, said, "We try to pretend it's utopia, but it's not. Columbia is a city and some of the people are bound to be evil regardless of what the Rouse planners had in mind.

"No matter what the [public relations] is about a place, you have got to be careful."

Pub Date: 2/04/97

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